Baghdad: At least 350 Iraqi civilians needed hospital treatment after insurgents detonated three trucks filled with toxic chlorine gas, killing two policemen, the US military said on 17 March.
Meanwhile the prime ministers of Iraq and Australia, at a press conference here, refused to give any timetable for the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.
Friday’s gas attack was the seventh this year in which insurgents have used chemical gas bombs on civilians and security forces, in what appears to be a new tactic for Al-Qaeda militants.
Two of the attacks occured - one just south of the town of Fallujah and one northeast of the nearby city of Ramadi - both hotbeds of Al-Qaeda militants in the Anbar province.
“Approximately 350 Iraqi civilians and six coalition force members were treated for chlorine gas exposure,” said Lieutenant Roger Hollenbeck of the US-led Multinational Division West, based in Ramadi.
Iraqi state television reported that at least six people were killed in the blasts, but the US military could initially only confirm the deaths of two Iraqi policemen in the second explosion, in Ameriyah, outside Fallujah.
“Coalition forces confirmed that the Ameriyah citizens exposed to the chlorine were treated locally for symptoms ranging from minor skin and lung irritation to vomiting,” Hollenbeck said in a statement.
In each attack a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives and gas canisters near police and civilian targets.
Iraqi interior ministry operations director Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf confirmed the bombings and suggested they may have been carried out in revenge for recent government successes against insurgents in Ramadi.